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Covid-19 precautions drag Hong Kong retail sales in July

The tightening of social-distancing regulations helped fuel a 23.1-per-cent decline in Hong Kong retail sales in July.

Nevertheless, the decline was sharper than expected given July last year was the first full month when retail was affected by the outbreak of social unrest sparked by the proposed anti-extradition law, creating a lower base for this year’s July figures.

A government spokesman said that while Hong Kong’s Covid-19 situation has stabilised since July, potentially improving consumer sentiment, the retail business environment will continue to be “very difficult in the near term” with inbound tourism remaining at a standstill.

The decline in Hong Kong retail sales in July was only marginally less than June’s adjusted 24.7-per-cent drop.

For the first seven months of this year, Hong Kong retail sales have dropped by 32.1 per cent compared with the same period last year. However on a more positive note, retail sales for the three months to July rose by 16.9 per cent over the prior quarter.   

Reflecting the limitations on restaurant and cafe trading, the value of sales in supermarkets in July surged 26.5 per cent over last year’s figures. Sales of fuels rose by 3.8 per cent and of furniture and fixtures by 0.3 per cent. 

Every other retail category recorded a decline for the month, with the greatest impact on the overall decline being sales of food, tobacco and liquor, down by 12.9 per cent. In descending order of impact, declines were posted of 7.2 per cent for miscellaneous consumer goods, 53.7 per cent for jewellery and watches, and 5.6 per cent for electrical goods and other consumer durables.

Sales in department stores fell by 28.8 per cent, of apparel by 42.5 per cent, of medicines and cosmetics by 50.9 per cent, motor vehicles and parts by 13.1 per cent, books, newspapers, stationery and gifts by 41 per cent, of Chinese drugs and herbs by 26.5 per cent, of footwear and accessories by 53.6 per cent, and at optical shops by 37 per cent.    

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